Kaiser Permanente Study Finds Obesity Rates Decline Among Children and Teens in Southern California

PASADENA, Calif., – A new study from Kaiser Permanente found a small but significant decline in the percentage of young people who are overweight and obese in Southern California. The decline was seen across all ages, races and ethnicities, but was less pronounced in girls, adolescents, Hispanic and black children, according to the results published today in The Journal of Pediatrics.

The exceptionally large sample in this study allowed researchers to make more detailed observations than other recent studies of childhood obesity. The study cohort included 1,331,931 children and adolescents 2-19 years of age who were Kaiser Permanente members in Southern California from 2008 to 2013. Several recent studies have investigated national trends in childhood obesity in the U.S. and indicated obesity rates may be plateauing, but this study is one of the few large enough to detect small declines in the prevalence of obesity over a relatively short time period.

In the past 30 years, obesity has more than doubled in children and quadrupled in adolescents, with more than one-third of children and adolescents found to be overweight or obese in 2012, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Obesity is a serious issue that can affect a child’s life well into adulthood, which is why it is important to tackle it early on. Our study shows the prevalence of overweight and obesity is slowly declining, indicating that obesity prevention efforts may have an impact, said Corinna Koebnick, PhD, study lead author and researcher with the Kaiser Permanente Southern California Department of Research & Evaluation. The decline, especially in early childhood obesity, is a success but we will have to focus on those children in groups that did not benefit as much.

In this study, the definition of overweight and obesity in children and adolescents is based on the sex-specific body mass index-for-age growth charts developed by the CDC. Overweight is defined as a BMI at or above the 85th percentile and below the 95th percentile for children and teens of the same age and sex. Obesity is defined as a BMI at or above the 95th percentile for children and teens of the same age and sex.

Researchers found the prevalence of overweight and obesity decreased overall by 2.2 percent and 1.6 percent, respectively. This change corresponds to a relative decline of 6.1 percent in overweight youth and 8.4 percent in obese youth. Although the decline was remarkably consistent across all groups and significant even in minority youth and youth of lower socioeconomic status, the decrease was less pronounced in adolescents aged 12-19 years, in girls compared to boys, and Hispanic and black children compared to non-Hispanic white children.

Kaiser Permanente has several programs in place to address the obesity epidemic and related chronic conditions in its clinics and communities, including:

·         Industry-leading clinical prevention and treatment strategies, including documenting BMI status and exercise as a vital sign, and using motivational interviewing techniques to counsel patients on healthy eating and active living.

·         Co-founding the Partnership for a Healthier America in conjunction with First Lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move!

·         Improving community health through Community Health Initiatives, a nationally recognized model for hospital and public health collaboration.

·         Supporting more than 50 healthy eating and active living (known as HEAL) collaboratives in California, Colorado, Georgia, Oregon, Washington, Virginia, Maryland and the District of Columbia.


The study was funded by Kaiser Permanente Community Benefit. Additional authors on the study include Yasmina D. Mohan, MPH, Xia Li, MS, and Deborah Rohm Young, PhD, MBA, with the Kaiser Permanente Southern California Department of Research & Evaluation in Pasadena, Calif.


About the Kaiser Permanente Southern California Department of Research & Evaluation

The Department of Research & Evaluation conducts high-quality, innovative research into disease etiology, prevention, treatment and care delivery. Investigators conduct epidemiology, health sciences and behavioral research as well as clinical trials. Areas of interest include diabetes and obesity, cancer, HIV/AIDS, cardiovascular disease, aging and cognition, pregnancy outcomes, women’s and children’s health, quality and safety, and pharmacoepidemiology. Located in Pasadena, California, the department focuses on translating research to practice quickly to benefit the health and lives of Kaiser Permanente Southern California members and the general population. Visit kp.org/research.


About Kaiser Permanente
Kaiser Permanente is committed to helping shape the future of health care. We are recognized as one of America’s leading health care providers and not-for-profit health plans. Founded in 1945, Kaiser Permanente has a mission to provide high-quality, affordable health care services and to improve the health of our members and the communities we serve. We currently serve more than 10 million members in eight states and the District of Columbia. Care for members and patients is focused on their total health and guided by their personal physicians, specialists and team of caregivers. Our expert and caring medical teams are empowered and supported by industry-leading technology advances and tools for health promotion, disease prevention, state-of-the-art care delivery and world-class chronic disease management. Kaiser Permanente is dedicated to care innovations, clinical research, health education and the support of community health. For more information, go to: kp.org/share.